Coronavirus is highly contagious and can be fatal. So why am I flying into coronavirus zones? For fun. Kind of.
US State Department Warnings
The US State Department holds warning levels for every country in the world formally recognized by the US government. The scale is 1-4 from “Exercise Reasonable Caution” to “Do Not Travel.” Hats off the State Department for avoiding any confusion on level 4 countries.
Italy currently has a Category Four ranking right now, as does North Korea (though for very different reasons) to provide some context. Japan and South Korea are Level Three, Malaysia is Level One.
Taking Advantage of Opportunity
I mentioned last week that some amazing opportunities exist for travelers right now as the world economy grapples with coronavirus fear. At some point this year, I will need to catch up on my PQPs which I am able to earn at an expedited rate by flying United partners long distances on great deals.
This is the definition of great deal season.
While the deal I found wasn’t exemplary on the surface, what is helpful are two things caused by the Coronavirus situation. The first is that near term bookings are incredibly affordable compared to the last-minute surcharge airlines typically charge. The second is that clearing into upgrade space is a near certainty for elites with system-wide upgrade tools to use.
The deal I took was as Newark to Kuala Lumpur via Tokyo sold as an ANA ticket and flown by United from Newark to Tokyo and back in Premium Economy for about $1100. Again, the price is not legendary, but a guaranteed upgrade has been unheard of in recent years, and I was able to book a week before departure when it was also convenient for my family and my schedule.
- Flight Miles: 20,120
- Award Miles: 20,120
- PQPs: 4,024
Weighing the Risk
A traveler should weigh the risk and benefit of any deal in the current environment. My chief concern is being quarantined if the situation in Japan deteriorates once I have departed. When the outbreak in China took place, foreigners were denied US entry if they had traveled, from or through China is the prior 14 days and US residents would be quarantined for the same period but allowed entry.
I can’t lose 14 days for an unnecessary trip, but right now Japan is not yet a quarantine country so it’s a risk but I can’t be sure how highly substantial it is.
Contracting the virus is actually second on my list but more of inconvenience. I am outside of high-risk age groups with a decent immune system – I’ve had swine flu in the past, I’m not that bothered. I don’t feel as though contracting the disease would cause long term damage, nor result in my fatality, but I’d rather not contract it all the same.
Flight disruption is a final concern. Cathay Pacific has 120 of their 200 aircraft grounded right now. The three-minute video from South China Morning Post is worth a watch.
American Airlines stopped flying to Milan from Miami and JFK, not because they had to or chose to, but because their crews wouldn’t work the flights anymore and American wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) force them. Lufthansa has considered cancelling 50% of their flights and grounding all A380s.
But Japan is on the precipice of moving to that list. If my flight is cancelled, I am sure I can find another way home on a partner via Europe or Singapore, but that could add a lot of inconveniences and unscheduled time away as a result. I’ll just make be honest about where I’ve been.
Why I Booked It
There may be better deals later, I suspect in fact that there will be. However, I had the flexibility in my schedule, and I’m not missing any family time due to other plans. A good deal is always worth taking even if a better deal may come along because the value remains the same but a future deal may not ever unfold. Last year, I had to force a run when it was expensive and less convenient.
It may seem crazy to some travelers to fly through a country with known outbreaks when it’s not absolutely necessary. However, I believe the risk to my health is low, the opportunity is good and the timing is personally very convenient.
What do you think? Am I crazy, stupid or smart for grabbing a deal like this? Would you take these flights?